Q&A with Gregor Urquhart
Gregor heads up the Smarter & Fairer Marketing team at Scottish Government.. Over the last few years he has worked on campaigns ranging from teacher recruitment and early learning and childcare, to benefit uptake and digital participation. He also plays a lead role in communications around Year of Young People 2018, which aims to celebrate the achievements of young people and create new opportunities for them, something Gregor is particularly passionate about. He has worked at Scottish Government for five years.
Hey Gregor! Tell us a little about yourself – how did you get into the marketing industry and why?
I originally tried to forge a career in music journalism but that didn’t quite pan out. Instead my journalism career led to me working on a bunch of fishing trade magazines. So rather than touring Europe with The Flaming Lips I was attending aquaculture conferences in Scrabster. I soon realised that NME wasn’t going to come a-calling! I was then lucky enough to get a job at Young Scot, a fantastic youth charity, where I started off as a website content writer, years before “content” was even really a thing. I spent 12 amazing years there, ultimately becoming Director of Communications. I then got the opportunity to join the Scottish Government’s marketing team, originally on secondment, before becoming a fully-fledged civil servant. Perhaps not exactly the rock ‘n’ roll job I originally dreamt of but considering what happened to the NME, it’s probably been a better move in the long run…
Who would you say are currently your biggest inspirations in the industry?
I am really interested in the field of behaviour economics, especially in relation to social marketing, so it will come as no surprise that the work of people like Richard Thaler and Daniel Kahneman has been hugely inspiring to me. Others that inspire me are often from a campaigning or activist background. Most recently, I’ve been in complete awe of the young people from Parkland, Florida who are campaigning for gun control following the shooting in their school.
You have previously worked with Young Scot as their communications director. If you could give your younger self one key bit of advice, what would it be?
A ponytail does not suit you and nobody thinks it does!
What have been the best, and worst bits of your career so far?
It’s a cliché, but I’m a great believer in tough experiences being great learning opportunities. So any “worst bits” have usually led to really positive outcomes further down the road. Succeeding is more enjoyable than failing, but probably less interesting too. In terms of best bits, this year being the official “Year of Young People” is very special. Having spent over a decade at Young Scot working on campaigns to support young people and promote a more positive perception of them, and 5 years at Scottish Government, mostly working on campaigns around education and early years, it feels like a culmination of my career so far. The passion and enthusiasm for the year from all corners – young and old - has been extraordinarily heartening.
Do you have any top tips for those just starting out in the field?
There’s no one single way in to the industry now so I truly believe it’s about taking your own path. Passion and enthusiasm will take you a long way. Just as in the revolution in music, you can become a marketer in your own bedroom now, you don’t need permission or a contract. What do you love? Start a blog or a YouTube channel or an Instagram account and share that passion with the world. It’s a great way to develop creative ideas, learn about promotional strategies, refining copy, etc. To steal a line from the great thinker and novelist George McFly, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything”.